NHL legend Dionne Rocks fundraiser

Forward Riley Brousseau tees off during the fifth-annual Timmins Rock NHL Celebrity Golf Tournament at the Hollinger Golf Club on Thursday. The tournament, back after a one-year absence due to COVID-19, attracted 100 golfers, the maximum allowed under current restrictions, with former NHL superstar Marcel Dionne — checking out Brousseau’s form — being the guest of honour. ANDREW AUTIO/THE DAILY PRESS

Hockey Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne was in town on Thursday for the fifth-annual Timmins Rock NHL Celebrity Golf Tournament at the Hollinger Golf Club.

Andrew Autio
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

It marked the return of the fundraising event that had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had to take a break last year, so this officially the fifth anniversary,” said team president Ted Gooch.

“We’re excited to be here today.”

One-hundred golfers participated in the event, the maximum number allowed under current restrictions.

The event serves as a vital financial boost to keep team operations going.

“It’s very important,” Gooch said.

“We haven’t been able to complete the last two seasons and we haven’t been able to have any fundraisers.

“So, having this as our first fundraiser back has been huge for the club, and we’re happy to kick it off with one that we love.

“Giving people the opportunity to come out and meet an NHL legend, play a nice round of golf and help the club at the same time is great and we’re very happy to be back.”

Simply put, Dionne is one of the best hockey players of all-time.

He played 18 seasons in the NHL, for the Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, and most notably, the Los Angeles Kings, where he became the franchise’s first true superstar and played for 12 years.

He ranks sixth in the all-time NHL record books in points, with 1,771, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992.

“We work with a couple of companies down south who hook us up with connections for celebrity appearances,” Gooch said.

“We reached out this year, and Marcel was more than happy to come up and be a part of our event.”

Hockey Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne displays his skills with a golf club during the fifth-annual Timmins Rock NHL Celebrity Golf Tournament at the Hollinger Golf Club on Thursday. The 100 golfers who took part in this year’s event had an opportunity to meet Dionne and test their driving skills against the former NHL superstar. ANDREW AUTIO/THE DAILY PRESS jpg, TD

Dionne told The Daily Press he was thrilled his schedule permitted his participation and it wasn’t his first time in the City with the Heart of Gold.

“I was here years ago, many years ago,” he said.

“I played the original golf course years ago with some friends. I’ve been here with the Legends of Hockey. I know there’s a lot of hockey fans here. It’s always been a pleasure.”

Dionne was keenly interested in the state of the local economy and was curious about the mining operations within the city.

“It was an opportunity to come back again, to a smaller town, and I love that,” he said.

Dionne is a longtime resident of the Niagara region, spending periods in Niagara Falls, Welland, St. Catharines and Niagara-On-The-Lake.

“I stay there for the love of the place,” he said.

The connection goes back to his junior hockey days, as he moved to the area when he was just 17 years old.

Dionne was born in Drummondville, Que., but played junior for the St. Catharines Black Hawks from 1968 to 1971, before being selected second overall, right behind Guy Lafleur, in the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft by the Detroit Red Wings.

In his post-playing days, Dionne has become a very successful businessman and entrepreneur.

“I had no interest in working for anybody,” he said.

“I’ve done a lot of things.”

Included in his long list of ventures is a two-year stint as co-owner of the East Coast Hockey League’s South Carolina Stingrays, beginning in 1993.

That franchise was highly successful and paved the way for the non-traditional hockey market to accept the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.

Dionne shared he and his partners originally invested a combined $500,000 in the team and sold it two years later for $2.5 million.

On Thursday, Dionne was stationed at the Hole 8, where golfers tested themselves against the drive of the hockey legend.

“So far, so good,” he said.

“The weather has turned around, so I’m very happy. I will have to come back and play this golf course.”

Golfers prepare to head out for the start of the fifth-annual Timmins Rock NHL Celebrity Golf Tournament at the Hollinger Golf Club on Thursday. After a one-year absence, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event attracted 100 golfers, the maximum allowed under current restrictions. ANDREW AUTIO/THE DAILY PRESS

One of the familiar faces on the course was recently graduated Rock captain Derek Seguin, who was at the event for the fifth time.

“First time being here, not actually a being player,” he said.

“It’s nice to see the young guys and see some of the returning guys coming out as well.

“It’s just nice to see the big Rock family all together at the same time. It’s really awesome, especially with COVID-19, we haven’t been able to see each other for a little bit, so it’s nice to get everyone back together again.”

Seguin is off to Nipissing University next weekend where he will be studying a double major in business and psychology, as well as playing for the university’s hockey team with former Rock defenceman Josh Anderson.

Seguin has been skating with the Rock during their training camp this week.

“I’ve been on the ice with the guys, watching them skate,” he said.

“I’m just training and trying to prepare myself for the student athlete experience.”

Formal team practices begin for Seguin on Sept. 15 and the first game of the season will be in the second week in October.

Dionne still looks back very fondly on his junior days and the connections made during those formative years.

The bonds run deep.

“We have a reunion every year in St. Catharines,” he said.

“Over 90 to 100 guys show up and it’s a two-day event. We play golf, and a lot of guys come the day before because they’re mostly from out of town, and it’s very exciting to see all these guys again. It’s a lot of fun.”

As for his golf game, Dionne said it’s a mixed bag.

“I golf quite a bit, but I’m usually good shot, bad shot, good shot, bad shot,” he said, with a laugh.